Poland Spring is heading to the forest with the University of Maine to find some bio-based solutions for packaging products.
Nestle Waters North America, Poland Springs' parent company, and the university announced the partnership Sept. 29. The school's Forest Bioproducts Research Institute will evaluate and develop alternative, sustainable solutions for Poland Spring products.
Poland Spring has been based in Maine for 175 years, and it plans to be the first major bottled water brand in the U.S. to use 100 percent recycled plastic by 2022.
The university plans to explore using materials from sustainably harvested wood from Maine, which could advance the circular economy, according to a release.
"Forestry is a cornerstone of Maine's economy," said Joan Ferrini-Mundy, University of Maine president. She explained the institute was formed to explore technology and research to meet needs for materials, chemicals and fuels sustainably.
The aim of the collaboration is to use biomaterial technologies to find alternatives to traditional petroleum-derived, nonrenewable materials. The effort formed after a Nestle event focusing on bioplastics at the university in May 2019.
David Tulauskas, vice president and chief sustainability officer of Nestle Waters North America, said the university is a pioneer in wood-based materials and processes that are both sustainable and renewable.
"Their innovative work is already showing how a Maine-based circular economy is possible, and this project will identify additional potential uses for the state's wood fiber byproducts as sustainable packaging or other products," he said.
Because of Maine's rich forests and forestry economy, the partnership represents a key development for the state to invest in packaging and infrastructure to further use in both of those areas.
"Any time Maine's natural resources, the basis of our heritage industries for generations, are looked at with fresh eyes to promote innovation, it is a benefit to the entire state," said Heather Johnson, commissioner of the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development.
Nestle Waters North America has previously committed to using 25 percent recycled plastic across the U.S. by 2021 and 50 percent by 2025.